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<i>Editor’s note: By rejecting a pair of Eighth Amendment challenges to the Three Strikes law earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court dashed what many California inmates saw as their last hope of leaving prison alive</i>. <i>In October of last year, just before the cases were argued</i>, The Recorder <i>asked Three Strike inmates to explain what the challenges meant for them. Below are excerpts from the responses we received</i>. <hr width=75%> . . . I have been incarcerated since Dec. 3, 1996. I feel my being has been snatched from me. I have changed my outlook on everything in life. I no longer care about past friends, life or ways. I only pray now for a new life. My family and me have been through so much hurt and pain the past six years. I miss them with all my heart. The decision next week [sic] can give me a new chance, hope, a family. My mom and dad I put through so much. I want my life a second chance. I never thought possessing a 1/2 gram [of] drugs would take my whole life away and cause my loved ones hurt. I fought my case all the way to the first level in federal court when the guy helping me was transferred and took my legal papers with him and I was left without a clue what to file and my case (writ) was denied. I have no desire to ever use drugs, possess or be around [them]. I know my life was ruined from drugs since I was a teen-ager. I have hopes I will be able to raise a family, be part of a family. That’s all I want. I know I can make it. I’m praying the Supreme Court will see 25 to life for possession is cruel and unusual punishment. I’ve done had three different cellmates who was convicted of 1st degree murder who had less or the same amount of time I have. That’s not justice. . .. <b>Mark Huddleston</b> <hr width=75%> . . . What would it mean to me? It would mean there is a chance for me to get out of this place . . . that I would not die in here nor spend my life in here. . . . If I were to get out tomorrow, I would be ready, I would go back to work and fly right, no stealing Jack Daniels nor partyin’ because that is not what I want. I have been there and done that. I want to go to work, pay bills and be clean and sober, have a car or bike, be able to go fishin’ and camping or go to the beach, even just to stay home at night and relax with my girlfriend. Now if [Three Strikes] was upheld then I would be sad and I would hope that FACTS [Families to Amend California's Three Strikes] or some other people would get enough signatures to get an initiative on the ballot to overturn the Three Strikes law. I have to be patient.. . . <b>Gilbert Musgrave</b> <hr width=75%> . . . I was the first “Three Striker” in Los Angeles County. I was convicted of a 1st degree burglary on Aug. 25, 1994, and at 3 p.m. on that same day, the L.A. County district attorney’s office filed 839 “Three Strikes” cases. I believe they used the term for me as the poster boy for the “Three Strike” law. On this same day I was sentenced to 30 years to life. . . . I have been in prison for 8 years now and there has not been one day where I haven’t thought about the realization that I will probably spend the rest of my life in this place. I am 37 years old now and I don’t get to the Board of Prison Terms until 2023 and even then there is a strong chance that I will not receive a release date even then. As my lawyer put it, “When an individual in California receives a life sentence, that is just what it is, a life sentence.” I have been addicted to drugs my whole life. Never once was I offered any help with my problem. The thing is, I didn’t think I had a problem. I don’t blame my situation on anyone but myself. I know what I did was wrong and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about all the things I could have done with my life, only if I had some guidance. . . . I have appealed my case two times. The first appeal was reversed in 1996 under the [ <i>People v</i>. ] <i>Romero</i> decision. My wife spent $5,000 for a five-minute hearing where the judge resentenced me to the same sentence. I appealed again and was denied. I filed a writ of <i>habeas corpus</i> in the state courts and was denied and I filed a writ to the federal courts and this was also denied. I have given up. . .. I have no hope of ever seeing my kids again. How can someone have hope or ever look forward to any kind of hope? . . . I feel for [Three Strikes proponent] Mike Reynolds and his loss of his daughter by some scumbag who took her life. But I don’t see how that individual’s actions should affect me and 6,999 other people who have never committed a violent act. Or how the public allowed itself to be manipulated by politicians in believing this law was being implemented to put away violent offenders. I guess the only thing that matters is the vote? . . . I just pray for a second chance to spend time with my kids on Christmas or Thanksgiving and visit my grandmother’s grave. Or just do normal things. I don’t enjoy the prospect of dying alone in this place. . .. <b>Robert Edward Hardy</b> <hr width=75%> . . .There are so many things wrong with this cruel law. Los Angeles and S.F. plus a few other counties don’t even use the Three Strike law unless the third strike is violent. That means half the state people are getting life sentences and the other half is getting probation to six years. Plus in 1984 and 1990 I plea-bargained to two non-violent burglaries not knowing there would be a Three Strike law passed in 1994. Both times there wasn’t “no” evidence “at all” I did the burglaries, but they had evidence for [receiving stolen property] because I had a very small amount of the property when I got arrested days after the burglaries. . . .All I needed was a little help, not life in prison away from my daughter, mom, and other family members. . .. <b>G. Mike Lane</b> <i>Lane wrote again about a week later</i>: I don’t mean to bother you so soon, but I’m going to ask you a favor. Last Saturday there was a small riot here, and I just heard we might be on lockdown until the first of the year. If you got any info on how it went Nov. 5 when they argued [the Three Strikes] cases in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, I sure would appreciate it. Especially what questions Justice [Sandra Day] O’Connor and Justice [Anthony] Kennedy asked during the hearing. They are the swing votes, and we need one of their votes. . . . I’m locked up in this little cell knowing hardly nothing. Any info at all would be appreciated. It’s my life. <b>G. Mike Lane</b>

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